Ryan and Dogs
Xeinok, whose real name is Ryan (and asked I keep his last name private), has climbed the ranks of Steam achievement hunters to become one of the top ranked in the world. He’s earned over 8,000 total achievements and has grabbed every achievement in over 200 games.
Ryan is part of a community of achievement hunters which gathers in the long-standing 100% Achievements Steam group, chats on Discord, and compares stats on a couple ranking sites. The most popular of those is astats.nl, though when we spoke last week Ryan also mentioned TrueSteamAchievements, a spin-off of the Xbox site TrueAchievements. These sites don’t just track the total number of achievements earned, or number of games a player has hundred percented—they also take into account the rarity of an achievement to calculate a score. On astats.nl, Ryan is ranked number two in the US, and number 13 in the world.
“My whole goal in my career is to go to work and be happy and like what I do,” said Ryan, “and then get the ability to come home and just play PC games all day.” I said he must be living some people’s dreams, to go to a job he enjoys and then go home and play all the games he can.
“We jokingly say, ‘Go 100 percent life before you come 100 percent games,’” he said. “Because there are some people who are on pretty tough times, and I feel like if they’re pouring all their life energy into trying to perfect all these games it can take away time from going to the gym, or trying to find a better job if you don’t like where you’re at, so we always try to push each other to live life.”
As a trilingual company executive (which explains how he owns around $5K worth of games), Ryan clearly follows his own advice. Below is our lightly abridged chat, which reveals how much there is to talk about in achievement hunting: mobbing forgotten multiplayer games, playing the best, worst, and hardest games on Steam, identifying cheaters, and discovering impossible achievements. The hobby has driven some to amass over 20,000 achievements in thousands of games.
PC Gamer: What got you interested in trying to get as many Steam achievements as you could in the first place?
Ryan: I think I’m a little bit of a weird case myself, because growing up I was always the type who would play Chrono Trigger or the original Deus Ex or whatever, and I’d always blast through and try to get 100 percent of everything anyway, so it felt natural for me I think. I was just never much of a console guy, so I didn’t get too into the Xbox thing, with the Gamerscore and all. So yeah, when it came to Steam I was all about it.
But there’s a bit of a difference between enjoying getting a few achievements from the games you own and actively seeking out achievements, right?
Oh, yeah, yeah. You know, I think it gets more and more addictive, I guess. There’s definitely a line you cross eventually as an achievement hunter where you’re searching out games for their achievements and stuff like that. I try to keep it as best I can to still playing games I really enjoy. There are so many games on Steam that you’re never really punishing yourself to play crappy games or anything.
When it comes to maximizing the achievements you get, do people—or do you—make it a goal to find cheap games with easy achievements, or is it really just about playing whatever you’re interested in?
It can be both. I think there’s a lot of different sub-categories to achievement hunters, certainly Steam achievement hunters. We’ve got people who really target difficult games, and they just really love to see up on their profile, “Like, hey, I beat Surgeon Sim, or Ikaruga, or Super Meat Boy.” Those games that are really hard, and they love getting those. And then there’s the total opposite. There’s people who are achievement hunters and every single day they’ll check Indiegala and Bundle Stars looking for the easiest visual novel kind of crap game that they can blast through, and you know, add another tick to their hundred percented games.
So, at the time we’re talking, how many achievements do you have?
Let me pull up my Steam profile. I have 209 games that perfected, got all the achievements in, and I have about 7,700 achievements right now. [I checked his Steam profile before this was published, and it’s actually 8,112.]
That’s a lot of achievements.
Ah, it’s not too bad. I’m more the type that leans on the side of the more difficult types of games, so they’re considered more valuable in all of our leaderboards. So that’s how I can be ranked as high, but I know a guy, he’s probably top in the world right now. He’s from Chile, and I think he has 750 games hundred percented right now. He’s a total machine. Including, like, every single Final Fantasy game. He’s done them all and they’re all really hard games to get all the achievements in.
What’s the hardest achievement you’ve gotten?
The hardest one? Let me see. Steam will sort it for you automatically, they give you this little achievement showcase thing, and right now it says the rarest one I have is from Guns of Icarus, which is a multiplayer airship battle game. I guess it was to win a bunch of games with a completely new player on my team. So, sounds like that was pretty tough.
If I had to pick one off the top of my head that’s not based on rarity, I’d probably say Dishonored. The DLC that released for Dishonored was really, really brutal. There’s some achievements in there that you had to play through a score attack kind of mode, getting only headshots, and that game doesn’t have the best aim always. So that was pretty tough. There’s another game called La-Mulana that’s on Steam, made by a Japanese indie dev, and that was completely brutal all the way through. That game’s super, super tough if you haven’t played it.
Over email you talked about the community growing around Steam achievement hunting, where can someone find that?
Yeah, there’s a ton of people. We use Discord, we have a big group of achievement hunters on there, it’s always growing. There’s usually about 40 to 80 of us online, just kind of talking about achievements, and chatting, hanging out on VOIP. And then there’s also a large Steam group with probably 20K-plus people or so, and it’s just called the 100% Achievements group. There’s a super active Steam chat, the most active Steam chat I’ve ever seen, people are always in there talking, trading tips and stuff. And then, yeah, we have a couple different community websites that are really big right now.
The main one we use is astats.nl. It was just made by a prominent achievement hunter a few years back and it’s got all the world top people up there, it’s totally made for achievement hunters, has a bunch of cool features. And then the TrueAchievements brand, it’s an Xbox site, but they’re a super massive, really popular website... they just released this new Steam achievement website called TrueSteamAchievements, so that’s an upcoming, big thing there.
So anyone who wants to join the community should head to these places?
Yeah, everyone’s super welcoming. There’s people who have just a couple games, people who don’t have anything yet. We’re super welcoming, super nice. We try to emulate the speedrunning community as much as we can with how awesome they’ve been and the events that they do, being really nice to new people and helping them out.
Is there any achievement hunter lingo people should know before jumping in?
We have some. Obviously I think it’s normal to say ‘cheevo’ instead of achievements, or ‘achieves.’ People say different stuff for that. A funny one that we say is ‘hundo,’ like a verb form, ‘to hundo’ is to hundred percent it. Or when we uninstall a game right after hundred percenting it, a game you hated or something, you really trudged through it and it was a grind and you’re done, you can say ‘I huninstalled that game.’ So just dumb stuff like that.
And every time someone gets a hundred percent in a game we’ll post in chat and everyone else will post a Steam emote trophy at them, or something like that. Recently we’ve had some friends where it autocorrected the trophy emote and they ended up typing a trolley bus. So now when someone hundred percents a game everyone will post trolleys at them.
Can you explain how the ranking sites, astats.nl for instance, rank players? It’s not just total number of achievements, right?
The different leaderboard sites have slightly different formulas that they use, but pretty much what it does is check how many people have this game, how many people have played this game, which usually means they have at least one achievements in it or they have 5 minutes of play time … The formula takes that number of players and pretty much divides it by the achievements, by how many people have gotten each one, and builds up a rarity evaluation for it. So take Super Meat Boy for example: a ton of people will have beat world one. It’s pretty easy to do, almost everyone who buys the game is going to do that. So that’s going to be worth, like, one point. And then the last achievement in that game is like Golden God—something like get all the other achievements in the game and beat the game in one run, be a psycho badass type of thing, and it’s probably worth a ton, because very few people can do it.
Did you get all the Super Meat Boy achievements?
[Laughs] No I have not. I have not even attempted it. Some day… It’s funny though, you know, the way that formula works, it ends up doing some stuff you might not think about at first. So a game like Guns of Icarus that’s not exactly super difficult, but has a ton of achievements and has a lot of people who played it once or twice but didn’t really stick with it—that really boosts the value of a game like that.
Another one I just completed is a brutal roguelike on Steam called Tales of Maj'Eyal … It’s like an old-school sort of ASCII art, type of Nethack, kind of roguelike thing going on. But it’s permadeath, it takes you 30 hours to beat the game once, it’s so brutal. People come into the grinder, they play it once, and they’re like, “Oh God no.” They run away, so the value just skyrockets for the game because they played it but didn’t get too many achievements.
So there must be games out there that are almost impossible to complete, like old multiplayer games no one is playing anymore.
Yeah, totally. We usually have an event every week on Saturday, organized by a buddy of mine who’s a moderator on astats and a moderator of the 100% Achievements Steam group, and every week we all jump on Discord and that’s exactly what we do. We jump onto an old, dead, multiplayer game and we knock it out, since no one else is playing it. We did Fistful of Frags a couple weeks ago… and we did some dinosaur game [after that].
I wonder how many people have achievements from games you can’t even buy anymore.
Yeah, you know, some people collect games like that. They love to collect Steam games that have been removed from the story, and the achievements go right along with that. Some people are really into getting achievements from games that are going to be removed.
So they just buy the worst games, knowing they’ll be removed?
Yeah, they’re trying for it. There was a game, what was it called? Moonrise. It was on Steam up until the end of this year, and it was kind of like a Pokemon MMO that was on Steam. I’d never heard of it. And they posted that the servers were shutting down at the end of December so I know a ton of achievement hunter buddies jumped on it to hundred percent it before it went away.
The funny thing, though, is actually the enforcement and moderation is really intense. So if a game has a broken achievement that’s unattainable we’ll mark it as that on astats and TrueSteamAchievements, and then that means it counts for no points, and it won’t count against you for getting the hundred percent. There’s a lot of games that have broken achievements, and there are games that are completely broken, or get removed from the Store, so they no longer count count for your standing on the leaderboards. This includes some weird stuff, like in Left 4 Dead 2 there was one weekend a few years back where they had an achievement called ‘Good Guy Nick,’ and you got that by completing the campaign once with a completely new player of Left 4 Dead 2, which was super rare, because everyone and their brother had played Left 4 Dead 2. So they only had one weekend for it, and the people who got it got it, and Valve has said nothing about it ever coming back again. So, that achievement is marked as ‘broken’ now, because it’s completely unattainable.
Do you have any trouble with cheating?
One unfortunate thing for the Steam achievement hunting community as opposed to the Xbox and PlayStation is the existence of this program that people use to get cards and rewards in games. There’s a program called IdleMaster that just loads a bunch of Steam games and sits in them. And there’s a program literally just called Steam Achievement Manager. It’s really obvious to us, and the moderation staff, when someone will just cheat all their achievements and unlock them all at once, because you get timestamps for everything, so that stuff is brutally moderated. The system autodetects a ton of cheating. Stuff like using trainers, or changing your BIOS system date, or having someone else play for you, stuff like that—we take that stuff super, super seriously. We know everyone on the leaderboards is legitimate because we’re a police state. Super enforced rules.
Console commands are usually all good to go for us, in terms of, they’re not considered cheating. Spawning bots, or making a game mode super weird, going into [Team Fortress 2's] Man vs. Machine and making the robots do weird stuff.
So anything you can do in the game is considered fair?
Yeah, for the most part. Automatically unlocking things or going against what the developers have expressly said or wanted—we always try to stay on the good side of the developers. So using outside programs, modifying the game files, that’s all out, that's all totally illegal. Using glitches, just like speedrunners, exploits, glitches, tricks, all that is pretty much good to go. In-game cheats are cool. I was playing Duke Nukem 3D recently and it has God mode, so that's totally acceptable.
Can you remember what the worst game you hundred percented was?
[Laughs] That’s a good question. Right now I’d have to say, there’s a game on Steam called Ninja Guy. It looks like Banjo-Kazooie in space almost, but you’re this white ninja guy who is just super racist, yelling the most horrible racist things constantly. The game is so buggy, so crash happy, it has like three levels and you can beat it in 30 minutes. Everything about it, it makes you go, “How is this even on Steam?” It’s just so offensive and bad. That’s probably the worst one, yeah.
Big thanks to Ryan for talking with us. To reiterate some of what he said, anyone interested in joining the achievement hunting community can join the 100% Achievement group on Steam, the Discord chat, and sign up at astats.nl and TrueSteamAchievements. You can also find Ryan streaming on Twitch.